The Kink Kronikles
Release info:Produced by: Shel Talmy, Ray Davies
Release date: 10 Jan, 1989
Record label & catalog #: Reprise 6454-2
Format: 2 CD set
Release type: Compilation
|1. Victoria||stereo mix (3:38), recorded May-Jun 1969 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|2. The Village Green Preservation Society||stereo mix (2:46), recorded Aug 1968 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|3. Berkeley Mews||stereo mix (2:37), recorded probably Spring 1968 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|4. Holiday In Waikiki||stereo mix (2:43), recorded May 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|5. Willesden Green||stereo mix (2:23), recorded 11 Oct 1970, mixed Nov 16-18, 1970 and Jan 1971 at Morgan Studios (1), Willesden, London|
|6. This Is Where I Belong||mono mix (2:25), recorded May 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|7. Waterloo Sunset||stereo mix (3:17), recorded Apr 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|8. David Watts||stereo mix (2:37), recorded probably May-Jun 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|9. Dead End Street||mono mix (3:20), recorded probably 22 Oct, 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|10. Shangri-la||stereo mix (5:18), recorded May-Jun 1969 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|11. Autumn Almanac||stereo mix (3:13), recorded Sep 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|12. Sunny Afternoon||mono mix (3:31), recorded 13 May, 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|13. Get Back In Line||stereo mix (3:01), recorded 11 Sep 1970 at Morgan Studios (1), Willesden, London|
|14. Did You See His Name?||stereo mix (1:55), recorded Mar 1968 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|1. Fancy||stereo mix (2:25), recorded 14 May, 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|2. Wonderboy||mono mix (2:48), recorded Mar 1968 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|3. Apeman||stereo mix (3:51), recorded 27 Oct 1970 at Morgan Studios (1), Willesden, London|
|4. King Kong||mono mix (3:21), recorded early Mar 1969 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|5. Mr. Pleasant||mono mix (3:00), recorded Mar 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|6. God's Children||stereo mix (3:12), recorded 12, 13 Oct 1970 at Morgan Studios (1), Willesden, London|
|7. Death Of A Clown||stereo mix (3:12), recorded Jun 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|8. Lola||stereo "Coca Cola" mix (3:58), recorded 9, 10 May 1970 at Morgan Studios (1), Willesden, London|
|9. Mindless Child Of Motherhood||mono reduction of stereo mix (3:10), recorded May 1969 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|10. Polly||stereo mix (2:48), recorded Mar 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|11. Big Black Smoke||mono mix (2:32), recorded probably 21 Oct, 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|12. Susannah's Still Alive||stereo mix (2:21), recorded probably Aug 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|13. She's Got Everything||stereo mix (3:08), recorded 7 Feb, 1966 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
|14. Days||stereo mix (2:52), recorded May 1968 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London|
Liner Notes:For insisting in spite of what anyone might say or do that the world hates them, and thus that they've really nothing to lose by criminally misrepresenting themselves on stage, call them incorrigible, irresponsible or even fools. For such actions as abandoning their American record label of seven years with not even a word of farewell in spite of that label's extraordinary devotion to them, call them stupid.
Call them, in fact, nearly anything that comes to mind, for their career has been characterized at least partially by actions seemingly deliberately calculated to frustrate the sympathetic and encourage the hostile, but recognize them as the creators of some of the most beautiful music of our time, because The Kinks have always been that before anything.
And if you're comfortable bestow- ing the title on any rock and roller, call Ray Davies a genius.
Aside from occasionally bemused but more frequently ill-at-ease sojourns in what most of us recognize as the real world, Ray Davies resides in a world all his own. "No one can penetrate me. They only see what's in their own fancy..."
He's wary of emotional entanglement, and achieves greater pleasure from watching -from a distance-people "swarming like flies" around Waterloo Station than from being down there with them attempting to recruit friends. What friends he has seem always to be inaccessible, always the width of a river away when he needs them, appearing only at moments of peak embarrassment.
His is the loneliness of the long- distance piano player.
He sits at home alone, isolated-aloof? -yearning for a world and an England that no longer exist, that perhaps never existed - Miniver Cheevy in droopy white socks and a gappy grin ... despising most of what twentieth-century man hath wrought-not knowing how to drive, owning a phonograph that hasn't worked properly in years, refusing either to photograph or be photographed ... intent on accomplishing the impossible task of keeping the good old ways and things from being abused by the people in gray.
"A lot of people still don't understand our group's motivations," he says. "I suppose there's no reason that they should, and yet those motivations have a lot to do with our group. Sometimes it seems as if it's us against the rest of the world-it's like a war basically."
At the suggestion that there are indeed people in this world who not only know of his work, but also admire it passionately, he becomes furious, incomprehensibly preferring to believe that the world would just as soon see The Kinks hanging by their necks from the nearest tree than on stage or walking the streets. "I think perhaps that the best thing that ever happened to us was when people started hating us, because then there was at least some response. The worst that can happen is for everyone to like you. We probably overplay that."
Perhaps in what Dave Marsh has suggested is an attempt to exemplify the venerable English conception of the artist as both incomprehensible and loathsome to the common man, Ray Davies defies us to figure him out. ("No one can penetrate me. They only see what's in their- own fancy.")
For instance, this man Ray Davies, who at most times seems incapable of injuring the proverbial fly, in April,1971, blithely reported the following to Rock's Anne Marie Micklo, "I tried to stab Dave [his brother/Kink guitarist] last week. Stab him. With a knife. We were having eggs and chips after a gig and he reached over with his fork and took one of my chips and I ... I could have killed him."
And yet his songs reveal Ray Davies to be a man of enormous kindness and compassion. In even the drabbest lives-in the lives of those who make love in the dark because darkness knows no homeliness, of those whose greatest pleasure in life is dressing up like a princess to scrub the stairs-he has found dignity and eourage and simple beauty.
He was the first English rock essayist to blow the whistle on his society's shoddy execution of its post war dream of a classless society in which every person could achieve whichever station he aspired to if he worked hard enough. He has been rock-in-general's most loyal advocate of the little working people marooned by virtue of humble birth on the dead end streets whose existence the architects of the great middle-class refuse to own up to.
He's written also of those on the other side of the middle-class schism, of the indolent and dedicatedly fashionable with their frilly nylon panties, houses in the country and 24-inch TV screens. Of such horrors of accelerating technology as the camera and the automobile and the session musician. Of his own attempts to find love in this mixed-up, muddled-up world.
Nearly all that he has written of, he has written of with incisive perception, colossal wit and profound humanism. His has always been a unique and precious vision, the vision of a genius.
With such a captain as Ray Davies at the helm The Kinks could scarcely avoid being a group quite unlike any other.
The overwhelming majority of the groups who manned the Beatles-led English rock and roll renaissance of the mid-1960's spent the first several years of their careers on the tiny bandstands of London, Liverpool and Hamburg pubs and strip joints.
The Kinks, like no one else, started off orchestrating the high-society debuts of the daughters of London's poshest socialites.
For six years, until the enlistment of a rather too hirsute piano player and fair-haired John Dalton's replacement of Pete Quaife, they looked both unique and more like a group than any of the competition; four gaunt, unhandsome but character-filled king-class mugs framed by almost identical dark hair, seldom smiling, but on such occasions betraying spaces between perfectly fit teeth.
They took their name not from the title of some venerable Muddy Waters favorite, but from..."I went to a studio in a gray pullover and horrible tweed trousers, and the next day I went in an orange tie, and the bloke told me, 'Now you really look like a Kink,'" Ray confessed to Rolling Stone's Jon Cott. "Maybe it was an unfortunate name-the sadistic image or the thing in your arm. It's a good name, in a way, because it's something people don't really want.. . (Again referring to a Kink-hating world.)
When first their music arrived on these shores it was among the most distinctive of the day, fully as striking in its own way as were the maroon velvet hunting jackets all the group wore and the astonishingly long hair (this, remember, was late 1964) Dave sported on the cover of their first album. Any Kinks record could be recognized within two bars, with its bassy guitars throbbing along syncopatedly in the fashion of "Louie Louie" mutated by English audition, with its strange, alternately breathy and leering lead vocal. Throughout 1965 there were few things on radio as electrifying as Dave's manic, exultantly sloppy guitar breaks.
On Hullaballoo and elsewhere Ray let his guitar dangle unplayed at his waist while gesturing controversially with a right hand affixed to his right arm by the limpest of right wrists, which he would persist in doing through the cover of The Kinks' Greatest Hits to the present. Many regarded this as scandalous, but few vocalized their objections, because The Kinks were commercially monstrous.
Only monstrous was how many found the group's behavior during one of their 1965 visits to America. The American Federation of Musicians, in particular, thought the group's actions so entirely deplorable that it levied a de facto ban on further American performances by them until they apologized in writing for their crimes. The exact nature of the heinous offenses the group had committed was never revealed publicly, nor were the specific conditions of their banishment (their four-year absence from America was most often attributed- probably at least partially correctly-to Ray's disaffection for touring). The Kinks prefer not to discuss the subject.
And thus, from 1965 until the closing moments of the decade, while scores of English rock and rollers who were hardly fit-in terms of talent-to hand-wash Ray Davies' droopy white socks arrived unknown in America to return home a couple of tours later with fortunes large enough to last a lifetime, The Kinks languished in the shadow of Muswell Hill, gradually fading into a cult item.
Little did it seem to matter that, after a rather clumsy transitional period (however abundant they may have been in the searing wit that would soon become an R. Davies hallmark, "Well Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" were also obvious and unbecomingly vindictive) after Ray grew bored with predictable permutations of the original Kinks style and became fascinated with words and an entire panorama of musical persuasions, his work ranked alongside that of any other rock writer: such indisputably exceptional singles as "Dead End Street," "Waterloo Sunset" and "Autumn Almanac" and extraordinary albums as Face to Face, Something Else and The Village Green Preservation Society escaped very close to remaining unheard in America.
In England, where several of the singles that dopped so ignominously here enjoyed at least reasonable radio ventilation and commercial success, it was different. But it did not remain so for long: by the beginning of 1969 The Kinks had become little more than a pleasant memory to all but a dedicated few.
Finally in the autumn of 1969, after a costly but quite effective (in terms of evoking extensive critical sympathy) demonstration of faith by Reprise and concurrent with the release of perhaps their finest album ever, Arthur (or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire),The Kinks reconciled with the A.F.M. and returned to America after a four year absence.
In typical inscrutable Kinks fashion they elected to get their feet wet in no less quiet, out-of-the-way and free-of-critical-scrutiny a venue than the Fillmore East, where, as if to testify to their fall from popular grace, they were second-billed behind Spirit.
They were awful, embarrassingly awful. Their harmony singing was horrifyingly off-key. Instrumentally they stumbled all over one another, sounding like the first rehearsal of an inept teenage garage band. They forgot words and chords, and defiantly-two lines into "Death of a Clown," Dave yelled into his microphone, "I can't remember the fucking words !" Nearly every song ended with Ray holding onto one chord for an eternity and screaming. And where there should have been previously-unheard-in- America songs, there were only endless, vacant, clumsy jams.
Called back for an encore by the large turn-out of Kink kultists from all four corners of the globe present, they started "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" only to discover that none of the group remembered the song.
They improved only very slightly over the course of their American tour.
In late summer, 1970, they accomplished their first full-scale American hit since 1966 and "Sunny Afternoon" with "Lola" one of the greatest singles of the twentieth century and one so obviously the work of a man with a flawless conception of what makes a hit single that it set one to suspecting that Ray could have led The Kinks back onto the cakewalk at any time he'd really wanted to.
They returned to America, only apparently without having rehearsed since the last time they had been here. Which much depressed those Kinks kultists with friends who'd very nearly been converted by "Lola" quite infuriated the non-kultists who'd figured "Lola" proved The Kinks a good bet for the price of a ticket and set those who were both critics and kultists to formulating a tailor-made Kinks aesthetic in which frightful sloppiness in performance is celebrated for its aptness.
The highlight of their next full American tour, which took place during the spring of 1971, was an apparently inebriated Ray accomplishing the unusual feat of falling over a stack of amplifiers at the New York concert, a report of which event was contained in Anne Marie Micklo's altogether brilliant article on Ray Davies in the May 10, 1971 Rock:
At Philharmonic Hall the night of the New York concert Ray begins "Apeman" sloshing about the stage like a sailor gone amok on leave, forgetting words but unconcerned, he knows all he has to do is smile and the audience will forgive him, throw open his arms and embrace them-at a distanee-and he will be understood. He spirals backward in a drunken loon, or so we are led to believe, backward and to the right, where Dave stands playing, aware and waiting, and as Ray comes within the inch of using his brother to break his fall Dave sidesteps, neatly, and moves up to the microphone. Behind him Ray has crashed into a massive amp, sending both sprawling and readies springing. Dave is singing, his eyes nervous, his mouth defiant. Wanting to look back but damned if he will. Trying to make everyone believe that he cares about the amp.
Reports from several cities had it that the group appeared to be only just capable of remaining upright while on stage. Nevertheless, they were spiritedly applauded by a new generation of fans conversant with both the joys of juicing and the Kinks-ought-to-be-sloppy-performers aesthetic formulated hurriedly during their previous tour. So full of alcoholic good humor, apparently, was everyone involved that no one mentioned that there were many more empty seats at the group's concerts on this tour than there had been during their two previous visits to the United States.
All the while, though, they kept making mostly brilliant music in the studio- (perhaps appropriately) sloppily-performed music, but music nearly always redeemed by Ray Davies' unique comic/humanist vision.
Towards selected examples of The Kinks' music the time has come for us to turn our wholly absorbing attention.
The Kink Kronikles contain a number of selections whose presence the Kink kultist and the curious non-kultist alike might quite reasonably dispute. Both are hereby requested to take into consideration that, since the number of tracks that may be squished onto two standard- size LP's by no means equals the number of thoroughly splendid Kinks tracks in the Reprise vaults, an armful of abundantly eligible candidates for this collection had to be left off. Until Reprise deems the moment propitious for the compilation and release of Son of Kink Kronikles, your humble kronikler accepts all responsibility that overlaps the above consideration for the infuriating absence of...
(In his own defense he advised the court that he had tried to please everyone: to include not only all the supremely outstanding cuts from The Kinks' last five albums for the non-kultist, but also both sides-whenever possible and warranted by the quality of the track involved of the several singles that never graduated to albums and also as many outstanding bits of Kink esoterica as there was space for, for the kultist/kollector. He pleaded guilty to the conscious exclusion of "Sittin' on My Sofa," "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," "Plastic Man" and others, but petitioned the court to see if they wouldn't agree that several of the tunes that were extracted from the new-deleted Face To Face were clearly superior stuff.)
Actually, they're not even unipue, if by the word you mean never "sounding" in the more superficial sense like anyone else. From the beginning in 1961 to now the Kinks have relied upon the most worn-out of rock 'n' roll cliches. ... But the Kinks are more fundamentally unique. They've never done a flower-power number, sung a drug lyric, recorded a drum solo, used a steel guitar or balled Marianne Faithful. To their own financial disadvantage they've never picked up on a trend or cashed in on a fad....The Kinks' 11 American albums constitute the most organically consistent oeuvre in rock-Ken Emerson, Boston After Dark Nov. 5, 1969.
Side One of this album has many songs about places which Ray Davies has thought, "This is where I belong."
"Victoria" opened-with an exhilarating rock and roll bang-The Kinks' soundtrack for the British television drama Arthur, in which co-writers Julian Mitchell and R. Davies traced the demise of the British empire to the emigration- provoking hopelessness of the post-war working- class life. Herein Ray, sounding as flatulently patriotic and boozy as anyone could have wished, yearns for a long-ago England in which morals were clearly defined, the wealthy could be as ornery as they pleased and the poor, knowing that Her Majesty loved them each and every one, willingly died for their country. In the process he mocks his own nostalgic impulses as well as working-class patriotism in general. So pleased was the group to be rocking and rolling again (after two mostly-musically-nostalgic albums), that Dave, for one, couldn't keep from hollering jubilantly in the background.
Ray's devotion to the venerable had, of course, been made vivid in the title track of Arthur's predecessor, (The Kinks Are) The Village Green Preservation Society, which celebrated the simple rustic life and found the group dedicating themselves to the protection of such precious artifacts and figures as Dracula, china cups, Donald Duck, draught beer and virginity. Clearly this was not your workaday tear-down-the-walls rock band speaking.
The heretofore-unreleased "Berkeley Mews" describes Ray's unpleasant confrontation with a bogus intellectual and rocks as authoritatively as any Kinks track of the last five years, with (presumably) Nicky Hopkin's harpsichord making for some truly scrumptious segues. I, for one, have always enjoyed hearing one of the tune's lines as "I staggered thru your shitty dining room."
In the delightful Chuck Berry-derived "Holiday in Waikiki" Ray discovers that dreaded commercialization has spread even to formerly idyllic Hawaii ("in the U.S.A"), where a genuine Hawaiian ukulele will set you back thirty guineas and the genuine native hula dancers are apt to be of Greco-Roman descent. This little gem was culled from the kick-off spot on Face To Face, the definitive 1966 English rock album.
"Willesden Green" a startling evoca- tion of American C&W, hails from The Kinks' soundtrack for the film Percy, and is notable not only for its awesome hilariousness ("... something keeps calling me back to that little semi- detached . . ."), but also because it apparently got the group so confident about its ability to play country music that they imbued their very next album Muswell Hillbillies, with an unmistakable boozy shit-kicking ambiance. Who on earth (or in The Kinks) is singing?
"This Is Where I Belong" our first side's theme-song, comes from one of the two major bodies of material thought of at various points as the intended contents of The Great Lost Kinks Album, Four More Respected Gentlemen. Dutch Kink fanatic B. W. Derksen informs us that this crackling rocker originally appeared on the flip-side of the Dutch pressing of the single "Mr. Pleasant." Whew.
And "Waterloo Sunset" which closed Something Else and had reached number two in the British singles charts in 1967, is simply one of the four or five most beautiful songs of our age, not to mention the nearly-unanimous choice for the title of The Kinks' most magnificent record ever presented.
This song's alternately funny and sad, deeply touching lyrics may very well be the most brilliant that Ray Davies has ever written. With simple, attractive images and genuinely poetic economy, they paint an intricate portrait of a man who knows himself all too well-who mocks his own rationalizations of his ability to lead what he teels to be a well-adjusted life: "As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset I am in Paradise" (the Waterloo Station of the song is roughly the London equivalent of the Grand Central Station-that is, hardly the stuff of such dreams.) At painful odds with himself though he may be, the singer is nevertheless clearly a kind and sympathetic man-the tone in which he describes Terry's and Julie's successful crossing of the river reveals that he doesn't resent them to their being able to do that which he can't, but rather that he rejoices in their suceess (here, as in "See My Friends" the river may be viewed as a metaphor for those many emotional disabilities that prevent people from relating to the world-at-large painlessly.)
If there's any question about these being Ray's most poignant lyrics, there's none whatever about the background singing in "Waterloo Sunset" being the most exquisite The Kinks ever recorded. Few groups have so much as attempted contrapuntal vocal harmonies like these, and I'm certain I've never heard their like performed quite so gracefully.
"Pack up your ambition in an old kit bag" The general theme of our second side is expressed in an Arthur song "Yes Sir, No Sir" So you think that you've got ambition/ Stop your dreaming and your idle wishing/ You're outside and there ain't no admission/ To our play/ Pack up your ambition in an old kit bag/Soon you'll be happy with a packet of fags...
"David Watts" a song about the most basic and perhaps most universal variety of ambition-that of being like the golden boy of one's childhood, the unanimously-envied little bastard who excels at everything he attempts- opened Something Else in a manner reminiscent musically of the way "Let's Spend the Night Together" kicked off Between the Buttons: note especially Mick Avory's distinctly Charlie- Wattish four-wallops-to-the-bar-attack.
The singer of "Dead End Street" the first of The Kinks' post-"Sunny Afternoon" flop singles, quite understandably can't figure out what he's living for-reminding us of Muswell Hillbillies' single most potent line: "If life's for livin', what's livin' for?" The defiant tone of the "dead ends!" that respond to his calls in the choruses, though, make it clear that he and they are not content to leave the subject with the admission, "We are strictly second-class."
When released as a single in England "Shangri-La" inspired a flurry of letters to the pop press protesting Ray's alleged contempt for the man he addresses in the song, which speaks of the insecurity and claustrophobia of the superficially comfortable and contented life he's labored so arduously to achieve, of the desperation that quietly torments him as he sits by the fire-for lack of anything else to do-in the house he's given a romantic, exotic name to distinguish it from the identical homes of his neighbors. To my ears, Ray's agonized delivery of the crushingly lugubrious chorus leaves little doubt about the location of his sympathy.
"Autumn Almanac" whose singer indeed seems to have packed up his ambitions in the proverbial kit bag and taught himself to find joy in the most mundane tasks, might be Arthur's epitaph. The song's distinct resemblance (in terms of melody, arrangement and general texture) to such other Davies works as "Drivin" (on Arthur) is difficult to miss: it deserves to be mentioned here that, if Ray is not the world's greatest plagiarist, as Paul Williams (unreprimandingly) intimated he might be in a Rolling Stone piece on V.G.P.S., he's at least one of rock's least reticent self-plagiarists-nearly every song in this collection has a twin in the Kink katalog.
The anti-hero of "Sunny Afternoon" (the middle component of a Face trilogy that began with "House in the Country" and ended with "Most Exclusive Residence for Sale") inhabits a social stratum a pole removed from the residents of Dead End Street. (Idle) rich as he may be, though, he's little better off than poor Arthur, as he sits on the veranda of his soon-to- be-repossessed country estate waiting for the law to come book him for the sets of drunkenness and sodden sadism reported by his long-of-leg, short-of-skirt and corn-colored-of-hair (see Frank Smyth's superb liner notes on Face) ex-beau. Even in these desperate straits he's nevertheless too accustomed to a life of comfort and debauchery to plot his escape, but rather longs only for two good reasons (presumably two firm size-D-cup reasons) why he ought to stay.
"Get Back in Line" from the generally reactionary (in terms of its "Well Respected Man"-reminiscent vindictiveness) Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround album, compares in my mind to "Waterloo Sunset" in overall poignancy, here heightened by Ray's use of a "you" as in "All I want to do is make some money and bring you home some wine." Hearing him sing this song it's difficult not to believe-it only for its duration-that it's Ray Davies, hungry rock and roll guitarist, whose tale is being told. The album is, after all, about the world's shameful treatment of its musician/songwriters, which theme Ray first demonstrated an interest in as far back as the delightfully catty "Session Man" on the Face album.
"Did You See His Name," one of the rarest of heretofore-unreleased Kink gems, effectively sums up Side Two by relating the sorry story of a man whose excess of ambition led him first to crime and later to suicide. Like "Where Did My Spring Go" (coming soon on Four More Or Less Respected Gentlemen or Son Of Kink Kronikles), its inexplicably sprightly music all but obscures its tragic theme, as if to imply that some things can drive one mad if one doesn't learn to perceive them ironically.
On Side Three we renew acquaintance with some of the more notable characters who reside in the Davies fancy.
"Fancy," from Face to Face, predated The Beatles' "Love You To" by at least a few months and thus may well be the first recording by a rock band to make extensive use of Indian scales and instrumentation (The Kinks' earlier "See My Friends" may also be regarded as a candidate for this distinction). Little need be said regarding the comparative expressiveness or durability of the two songs. [That's not quite correct: The Beatles' "Love You To" was recorded 11 April 1966, according to Mark Lewishon's book, while the Kinks' "Fancy" was recorded 13 May 1966, according to Doug Hinman's book. -dte]
In "Wonderboy," which is one of the most irresistible of The Kinks' popcorn singles, Ray Davies suggests, with uncharacteristic optimism, that life ought to be sorrowless, life being only what one conjures it to be, after all. For the sheer pleasure of witnessing Ray convincing both Dave and Pete Quaife two grown men to stand in front of a microphone singing, "La la-la-la la la la-la-la-la," for two-odd solid minutes, I, for one, would have given up half of all I owned.
"Apeman," in which Ray sounds like he's partaken immoderately of banana wine, finds him proclaiming a preference for swinging to and fro in the jungle to breathing the smog and listening to the enraged automobile horns of civilized London-the implication being that by 1970 we'd already blown it village green-wise and had left only the above two alternatives to choose between.
The lines, "C'mon and love me: be my apeman girl," and "I'll keep you warm and you'll keep me sane," have never yet failed to bowl this kronikler over. Whether "Apeman" was or was not inspired by Ray's discovery of a listing for Zippy the Chimp in the Manhattan telephone directory at the start of The Kinks' 1969 U.S. tour has never been determined.
"King Kong" ranks along with "Rats" and "Powerman" as not only one of the heaviest rockers in The Kinks' repertoire, but also as one of their most heavy-handed social comments, suggesting as it does that, however monstrous a bully the tune's namesake may be, everyone would be like him if he could. It's redeemed, at least to my ears, by the band's sizzling playing and by the hilarity of usually-mild-mannered R. Davies posing as the mythical brute.
Also at least a trifle on the boorish side is "Mr. Pleasant," in which Ray belabors the pettiness of a possession-obsessed middle-class family with a degree of pietism that had been (thankfully) absent from his work since "Well Respected Man." One would nevertheless be hard put to fault its music, whose arrangement may be perceived as the exemplification of the most popular style in English rock circa late spring, 1967.
Asked by the producers of the film Percy to compose a snappy little toe-tapper concerning the humor of human organ transplants, Ray turned out "God's Children," a protest against the inhumanity of such operations. It seems that said producers had not listened very intently to V.G.P.S., else they could scarcely have expected a man who frowns on so seemingly harmless a technological phenomenon as photography to condone the swapping of the most personal of organs.
With "Death of a Clown" Dave Davies became a large pop star in his own right in England, where it was a Top Four hit. The reasons for the success of the record (which was released under Dave's name even though it was essentially a Kinks' record because he co-composed it and lead-sang it) should be readily evident: its gorgeous falsetto bridge, its intriguing Dylanesque words and its irresistible chorus -which was sufficiently potent to transform the most avid teetotaler into a drooling pub lay-about.
[Incidentally, it should be noted that "Death of a Clown" was the first of four singles The Kinks released under Dave's name (because he composed and sang them), the others being "Susannah's Still Alive"/"Funny Face," "Lincoln Country"/"There's No Life Without Love" and "Hold My Hand"/"Creeping Jean" Of these, only "Susannah's" enjoyed even modest success, possibly for the same reason that the Dave Davies "solo" album from which they were extracted was never released: to wit, they gave the impression of having been tossed together very quickly in a "regular" Kinks session.]
On Side Four The Kinks speak to and of women, of whom they've sung less frequently than nearly any other pop group with a comparable number of albums.
Or, as is the case with "Lola," of persons who at least give the impression of being women. Perhaps all I can add to the richly- deserved reams that have been written about this stunning tour-de-force of the Davies wit is that, despite what many cautious AM program directors thought to the contrary, we never find out for sure whether Lola is indeed a transvestite. That she talks like a man and possesses sufficient physical strength to overwhelm even so robust an apeman as Ray Davies we do know, but: "I'm not the world's most masculine man, but I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man, and so is Lola" So is Lola which, a man or glad? As is the ease with "Strangers," one of his two endlessly intriguing contributions to the Lola album, the literal meaning of Dave's "Mindless Child of Motherhood" is decidedly elusive-while its individual images are all so intensely personal as to be impenetrable, they add up to an enormously powerful expression of rage whose potency is greatly heightened by the fury and anguish of Dave's strange strangled voice (which, it you hadn't noticed, is quickly becoming as expressive an instrument as Ray's).
"Polly" (flip-side of "Wonderboy") "Big Black Smoke" (flip-side of "Dead End Street") and, to a lesser extent, "Susannah's Still Alive" all deal with a theme that has recurred frequently in the Kinks songbook-that of the young woman who abandons her state of innocence in the country to "try to make the swinging city scene" which move invariably worries those who love her half to death and results in her becoming miserable, corrupt and jaded. Each of these songs has its own particular musical splendor to recommend it: "Polly," a Who-ish arrangement; "Big Black Smoke" a mighty bass line, and "Susannah," a boozy/bloozy harmonica, reminiscent of John Lennon's "Oh Yoko!"
"She's Got Everything" recalls the pre-1966 Kinks in its subordination of basic words to powerful, intent-on-rocking music. Ray sings it in the sneery stylized Kingsmen voice he employed frequently in earlier days.
If "Lola" demonstrates Ray's mastery of lyrical ambiguity for comic effect, "Days" reveals an equally stunning mastery of the device in the serious expression of emotional ambivalence. Could he really be thanking the "you" of the song for having been with him at all after she's left him? (Could you, in like circumstances?) And how is she, or we, to believe that he's indeed "not frightened of this world" when in the same breath he admits that he's scarcely able to confront the loneliness of nighttime? All in all, I find this one of The Kinks' three of four most moving songs.
"Days" I'll remember all my life. In fact, I'm quite confident that I'll forget very, very little of the beautiful music The Kinks helped save us with when we were all just rock and roll kids.
God save The Kinks.
- John Mendelsohn
Album Art Direction: Ed Thrasher
Cover Photography: Ed Thrasher
Inner spread Design: John & Barbara Casado
© 1972 Reprise Records for the U.S.
Printed in U.S.A.
|The Kink Kronikles||25 Mar, 1972||USA||Reprise 2XS 6454||12" vinyl 2-LP set (double album), 33 1/3 RPM|
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